Understanding your JIRA workflow

Posted by
Emma Foster Oct 26, 2018 12:54:38 PM

JIRA and JIRA ServiceDesk are used in a wide range of organisations to solve an endless variety of operational problems but at its core JIRA is a work tracking tool built around the concept of tracking work items (tasks, problems, customer issues, bugs, etc) through a set of defined stages. The stages that items in JIRA move through are collectively known as the JIRA Workflow.

Understanding your JIRA workflow is essential for getting the best data out of your JIRA system. 

There are four basic building blocks for a JIRA workflow:

  • Statuses - indicate where a task is within a workflow. A task can only have one status at a time.
  • Transitions - reflect the action being taken and dictate the way a task moves from status to status.
  • Assignees - indicate the responsible party for a task. Can change between different statuses.
  • Resolutions - explain why a task transitioned from an open status to a closed one. 

At the start it is important to keep workflows as simple as possible, until it becomes clear that a particular step needs attention, removed or added. Don’t over-complicate your workflow with steps and statuses you don’t really need.

The two most common workflows are the project management workflow and process management workflow:


In both cases, work is moved from an "Open" status to a "Done" status. The difference is that the Process Management workflow requires an approval. Software teams would use the following workflow adding "Code Review" as an additional status.


Establishing processes as workflows makes them clear, structured and repeatable across teams. With a flexible workflow and an iterative approach to agile workflow management workflows should always align with teams culture and composition. 

Once your basic workflow is in place and working well it should be shared and monitored. One effective way of tracking JIRA workflows is through metrics. Metrics should be considered when managing workflows and shared with stakeholders to make sure business goals are being met and questions are being answered, for example:

  • What work has the team completed?
  • What is the current work in progress?
  • Is work arriving faster than the team can cope?
  • How many items are in each status?
  • Are there any bottlenecks that are slowing the team down?
  • How long does it take to complete a task?
  • How many work items didn't pass review first time around?

Monitoring and tracking these types of questions through metrics not only gives stakeholders a high level view of project performance, process changes or business improvements but also lets project managers quickly see if certain statuses aren't being tracked and if tasks aren't being updated. Leading to workflow refinements, "If a status is not being used do we really need it?".

ServiceClarity allows you to use your workflow data to create custom metrics and share these to stakeholders in a scheduled report. If we want to collect a work in progress KPI and we are using the software team workflow we can use JQL to search for issues that have a status of "In Progress" or "Code Review".

Within our ServiceClarity JIRA connector we can define a base JQL for the project and ticket type we are interested in tracking. We can also define our workflow active states:


This allows for easy customisation for each individual workflow, more statuses can be added to active or other types of states included.

We can now use our active.states variable and base_jql for a metric:

{base_jql} AND status WAS IN ({active.states}) ON '{DATE,yyyy-MM-dd}'


Using this base metric we can convert it to a work in progress KPI, use it within other KPIs and build out more workflow KPIs to measure eg. % active JIRA tasks, % open JIRA tasks, % closed JIRA tasks, time to respond, lead time, cycle time or throughput.

Check out our next ServiceClarity blog looking deeper into work in progress and how ServiceClarity can leverage historical data:  Measure work in progress with JQL and leverage historical data

If you would like to start tracking your JIRA workflow have a look at our proof of value program where we can generate a report for you within 5-days: Find out more

Topics: JIRA, KPI Reporting, metric reporting, DevOps, Agile

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